The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) convened a meeting in Washington last week to urge their mostly conservative Christian leaders to tone down "dangerous" and "unhelpful" remarks about Islam. Concerns were raised over comments by the Revs. Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson and others that Islam is inherently "wicked" and violent. NAE leaders worry that such statements endanger Christian missionaries around the world. They proposed new guidelines for churches to follow in relating to Muslims.
Doesn't the NAE have it backward? The most incendiary language is not coming from Christian leaders in this country, but from Muslim clergy overseas and occasionally from Muslim pulpits and schools in the United States. There is no Christian or Jewish doctrine that mandates followers of those faiths to kill people who disagree with them and to make the state in which they reside subject to their interpretation of holy writ. If one converts to Islam from any religion (or no religion) in the United States, his life is not put in danger. In America, one may take God's name in vain without fear of temporal punishment, unlike in many Muslim countries where even perceived blasphemy can result in the death penalty. Ask Salman Rushdie, who remains the target of a fatwa calling for his assassination for writing The Satanic Verses, a book that offended some Muslim leaders.
The NAE should be calling on members of the radical Islamic clergy to tone down their rhetoric. It should also be asking "moderate" Muslim clergy to isolate the extremists within their faith and to deprive them of legitimacy if they speak and act outside the will of mainstream Islamic doctrines.
As chronicled in this column over several years, invective against Christians, Jews and all other non-Muslims regarded as "infidels" rains down from Islamic pulpits throughout the world. The harsh rhetoric makes reference Koranic justifications of violent means to religious ends. These include the takeover of not only the "West Bank," but all of Israel. Why would such people negotiate with "infidel" diplomats who represent "the great Satan" and settle for less when they believe their God wants them to take it all?